Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ski Season Ends On Two Continents But 2009-10 Ski Season Kicks Off In Europe

Skiinfo reports that the official start of the 2009-10 ski season remains a subject for debate among snow nerds (...such as ourselves). On the one hand, several ski areas virtually never close – including Austria’s Hintertux glacier and Switzerland’s Zermatt, so for them the last winter season and the start of next winter is merged. Then there are resorts that are similar but close for a month or so in the Spring before re-opening in June or July and staying open right through to the following spring, so they might argue their next-winter-season actually begins in June or July. However after the summer heat has cooled a little and the summer ski glaciers that have a limited summer season have closed at the end of it, resorts do begin to open for winter 2009-10 that were not open before. On top of this skiing ended on two continents at the weekend, with the three still-open ski areas in Africa and North America finishing their seasons last Sunday (September 6th).
Solden in Austria was due to be the first last weekend but the summer heat melting away virtually all snow on the glaciers means this once year-round ski centre could not open as planned, despite fresh snow falls a few days before the planned opening date. So it appears that the Pitztal Glacier, Austria’s highest ski area, will be, "the-first-ski area to open for the-2009-10-season-that-wasn’t-already-open" when it opens this Saturday, September 12th. Unlike Solden (but like Zermatt), Pitztal has the ‘secret weapon’ of a new snowmaking system from Israeli company IDE which makes snow in high positive temperatures. But of course you don’t need to wait until the weekend to ski Austria. The Hintertux glacier is open with 15km (9 miles) of runs to enjoy and 165cm (5.5 feet) of snow to enjoy. The weather remains sunny. The Molltal Glacier is also open with 90cm (three feet) of snow.
Elsewhere in Europe the opportunities are equally limited with only four other resorts to choose from. Saas Fee and Zermatt are both open in Switzerland, both with around 90cm (three foot) snow depths.
In Italy Cervinia was another of the resorts closing at the weekend leaving only Passo Tonale and Passo Stelvio open.
All French ski areas are currently closed, with Tignes due to reopen the weekend after next.
In North America the last ski area that was still open from 2008, Timberline on Mt Hood in Oregon finished its 50 week ski season last weekend, lifts will start operating again at the end of next week on the 18th of September.
In Africa the season has ended at Tiffindell, although night time temperatures are still dipping below freezing. The resort has launched bookings for 2010 already, offering 2009 prices for next season to early bookers. The other ski area in southern Africa, Afriski in Lesotho, has also called it a day for their winter 2009. These are believed to be the first southern hemisphere ski areas to complete their 2009 seasons.
South America has seen plenty of fresh snow in the past week, with Chile doing especially well again, and Portillo reporting nearly 120cm (four feet) of new snow in the past seven days, taking their total this season to date past the eight metre (27 feet) mark. Current snow depths are a few centimetres below three metres (ten feet) on upper slopes. Valle Nevado has also had a lot of fresh snow and now has 170cm (nearly six feet) lying on the upper slopes with just under five metres (17 feet) fallen this season to date. Conditions are described as "Fresh powder". Argentina’s resorts have also seen new snow. Catedral continues to report the deepest snow on upper slopes with 2.2m (over seven feet) lying, Las Lenas is close behind with 1.8m (six feet).
In Australia conditions remain good at most of the major centres, with Thredbo reporting the greatest snow depth in the country with 145cm (Nearly five feet) on upper slopes. At Perisher (picture attached) 8cm of fresh dry flakes settled across the mid to upper slopes overnight with 3cm in the village; adding to the good base, plus there is reported to be more on the way. Guests can make the most of these awesome spring conditions and join in the fun and frivolity of Perisher’s annual Spring Carnival, which will continue until the 20 September providing family entertainment for guests, live music, fireworks, plus much, much more. At Hotham sunshine and snowflakes have been the flavour so far and they expect it to continue with up to another 20cm (eight inches) predicted to fall by Thursday this week. The resort is staging a Stars on Snow Spectacular today with the resort’s Snowsports instructors showing off their on-slope tricks with big air fire jumps, a kids flare run, fire twirling and a big fireworks display to finish off the night.
Turoa on Mt Ruapehu has New Zealand’s deepest snow with a base depth in excess of 2.4m (eight feet) on upper slopes. Meanwhile Cardrona Alpine Resort has broken its accumulated snowfall record by over a metre, with 317cm of snowfall this season. The previous biggest year on record was 2004 (213cm). The record amount of snow has provided excellent on and off piste conditions and will ensure that the resort’s popular terrain park features stay in top shape as the mountain crew have ample snow to work with. Cardrona’s high base elevation (1670m) also means the snow stays in good condition down to the base buildings. Nadia Ellis, Cardrona marketing manager, said spring is a great time to visit Cardrona. "We have plenty of snow and the mountain is looking in excellent shape, the resort is traditionally quieter and we are looking forward to enjoying the sunnier climes of spring".